How your “Tech Tells” help you get mugged

More then meets the eye! It’s the tagline for the classic Transformer series and also quite fitting for today’s blog about ‘security through obscurity’ when it comes to .. your laptop bag. You guys know i’m kind of a bag-man. I love my laptop bags, backpacks, messenger bags cases etc.

Most expensive laptop bags scream: “STEAL ME! Expensive stuff inside”

I have quite the collection (mostly Thule and Crumpler bags) and can spend quite a bit of time deciding which carry-bag is going to be appropriate for my daily mission on the road. Lately I have been traveling a lot via public transport and I started to notice something: Most expensive laptop bags scream: “STEAL ME! Expensive stuff inside”. It might be your company issues “stock” HP or Dell laptop bag (Ugh, I hate those) OR your pretty expensive hipster PC backpack that gets you into trouble. Why ? Not because your gear isn’t well protected against physical shocks, but because nefarious people KNOW by certain ‘tells’ that you might carry something valuable.

We all have certain “Tells”

These “tells” might be the brand and size of your bag but there are also other things that might tip people off. What kind of phone do you have there, what type of earbuds, how about the shoes you wear ? Or your clothes? All of those things pulled together might give a possible pickpocket a pretty good idea of how ‘wealthy’ you are and what the chances might be of getting a good ‘catch’ when they lift your gear without you knowing it.

Are their shoes shiny, clean and expensive? Is that an Apple Watch ?

Playing the “Tell” Game

Lately I’ve been playing the “tell” game on the train to Brussels: Trying to ascertain the “value” of a “target” using my powers of observation. (Just by looking) and it is a lot of fun to do when you get it right. Is commuter X in front of me nothing but a poor student with a crummy laptop or might there be a Dell XPS15 in that bag ? I take a look at their phone, the state the phone cover is in. I take a look at the headset he has on. Just a couple of no-name earbuds or are we talking a 500 dollar Bose here? Clothing gives a lot away. Are their shoes shiny, clean and expensive? Is that an Apple Watch ? (Then there should be an iPhone in there somewhere). When you really start paying attention there are a lot of ways we inform the outside world about our lifestyle and the tech we are carrying.

What are YOUR “Tells” ?

So I challenge you to take stock of your outward signs techno-wealth? Do you flaunt your Apple watch on the subway? Does your backpack show what brand of laptop might be inside? Are your noise cancelling headsets draped around your neck as you walk to class? What signs might you give pickpockets that you might be quite the catch?

Start by hiding the obvious

I’ve started thinking about this during my trainride into Brussels and thinking: How can I start hiding the obvious. One of the things I thought about was my backpack. So I started this little experiment in “hiding” my gear in something less “conspicuous”: A 25 euro general purpose backpack from Decathlon (a local sporting and outdoor store). These things are ubiquitous. College students, soccer-dads, blue-colar workers.. They all seem to have them and use them for a variety of uses. Schoolbooks, Lunch, Sporting gear .. you never quite know what is inside. Ideal for hiding my tech stuff. No ?

Of course the bag needs some “work”. I’m not gonna shove a naked Macbook Pro into a 25 Euro nylon sack. I’m not insane. The bag is going to need some adjustments to keep everything safe AND I also want some additional measures to fly “under the radar” of nasty people who want to steal my gear. I”ll tell you about those in my next post.

Link: https://www.decathlon.be/nl/p/rugzak-nh-500-20-liter/_/R-p-156340

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KW1109 What’s on my iPhone

Home Screen?

You want to know what’s on Knightwise’s home screen? This is the episode for you. Knightwise talks about all the key apps on his shiny new iPhone and how he uses those to get things done, and maintain his slider’s lifestyle.

Links

Music

Credits

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Review : The Huawei Ascend Mate 7. A big phone on a small budget.

“Whow .. Thats a big phone !” “There is no way you can make phone calls with that !” “How do you fit that in your pocket”. If I got a penny for every time I have heard that remark in the past, it would have been enough to buy me my next phablet and still have spare change for parking. Yes … my name is Knightwise and I’m a Phablet Fan.  Discontent with small screens and cramped mobile interfaces I switched to the “larger kind” of smartphone a couple of years ago with the Galaxy Note 2… and afterwards the Note 3. The thing is I don’t see my “Phablet” as my phone. I see it as my personal communicator, that also allows me to do voice calls. It is the one single digital device I probably spend  most of my time on during the day.. So when Huawei asked me to review their “Ascend mate 7” (what’s in a name) it was not going to be easily impressed.
The thing is : Phablets are rapidly becoming the “high end” niche market of the smartphone industry. Where the ‘average Joe’ pays about 300 dollar for the “average Joe” smartphone with “Average Joe” specs .. the phablet market is usually reserved for the geek with higher system requirements (and a larger amount of cash to spend on his mobile device). Result ? Phones like the Galaxy note 4, the new Nexus 6 and the iPhone 6 plus  boast high resolutions , big screens, good specs and … high prices.  So what is there do to when you want a ping-pong table sized  smartphone, but you are on a midget-phone budget ?
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Enter the Huawei Ascent Mate 7 : A bigger phone for a smaller budget. With its 6 inch Hd Display (1920*1080) it has a smaller resolution that the Note 4 Samsung Phablet Flagship (or Aircraft carrier) and its Quad Core Cortex A15 1.8 ghz processor with 3Gb or ram are also not as heavy as the competition … but neither is its price. For 300 euro’s LESS then the 749 price point of the Note 4 .. you get a LOT of phone for what you pay for.
For one : Huawei’s spin on KitKat is a LOT cleaner then Samsung’s over cluttered ‘Touchwiz’ interface. Not having to lift an extra layer of graphic bloatware, makes the ascend preform remarkably well , despite its lighter processor. The phone is quite responsive when pinching swiping and zooming but lags a little bit when opening large apps like Linkedin. Huawei’s version of Android takes some getting used to (there is no app drawer) but comes with some nice little tweaks and handy features like Fingerprint unlocking and “Single handed operation”. Samsung might have these features too, but in touchwizz they are buried beneath a thick layer of clutter.
Screenshot 2014-11-28 08.40.03
What we really liked about the Mate 7 was its fingerprint sensor. Located on the BACK of the phone, its in a very natural position for when you want to use it to unlock the phone. As you hold the phone in your hand your index finger is automatically placed on the sensor and the phone unlocks. Additionally the sensor can be used to trigger the camera. The fact that its not a button but a touch sensitive surface makes that you don’t “nudge” the phone (and blur your pictures) as you are taking a snapshot. We liked this feature .. a lot !  Speaking of the camera , the 13 megapixel front facing camera is quite good (but is a little lacking in low light conditions).
The screen on the Mate 7 is not the brightest of the bunch. Its colors are bright and vivid but do not match the “over saturated blown up colors” of the competitors amoled screens. Personally I like this because the latter do make a picture from a funeral look like a page from a holiday catalog. The (replaceable) battery life is good, we managed to get about 1.5 days out of the battery with fairly heavy use which pleasantly surprised us.  The overall signal reception on the phone is good (Wifi and 4G) although it did drop a call on us twice as we got into the car.
Screenshot 2014-11-28 08.40.15
The look and feel of the Mate is good. Its a full metal jacket (We don’t know which metal, but it sure ain’t plastic) and the phone is well balanced. The bezel on the side of the screen is almost non existent giving the phone a premium look and feel.
So is it worth it ?  Yes ! If you want a maxi-sized phone with more then average specs on a medium sized budget, the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is surely something you should take a serious look at. The only competitor we see on the horizon is the immensely popular (but also immensely scarce) Oneplus One. With the price of the Nexus 6 going into the same premium price range as Samsungs Galaxy Notes and the iPhone Six , the Huawei ascend mate 7 will get the geek-on-a-budget (or the geek who shops sensibly) a great bang for their buck.

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App week : Make a 360 panoramic with Cycloramic (IOS)

This app is dumb .. and at the same time its brilliant ! Taking panoramic shots that span your entire surrounding (the so-called “360’s) is not always easy. You have to keep your phone levelled at all times at your “turning in place” skills are obviously not that of a prima ballerina. What to do ?

Enter Cycloramic. An app that lets you take panoramic shots using your iPhone and its .. charger ? Well yes ! Cycloramic uses the camera of your iPhone to take the actual picture, it uses the charger as a base and .. the build in vibrator .. ( Or the built in motor that makes your phone buzz). Its ingenious and pretty spiffy if you ask me.

But don’t take our word for it. Watch the cool little vid and give it a “spin”.  (ps : for iphone 5 models you don’t even need the charger .. the phone ‘dances’ around on its broader base)


Link : Cycloramic (Apple app store for iPhone 5, 5s and 6)

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Google hacking week : Using Google to “Hack” stuff.

This week it’s ‘Google hacking week’ on Knightwise.com where we are going to show you some fun and interesting things you can do with Google. We sometimes forget that Google’s main mission is to “index the information of the world” and this means that the Google “bots” (little search and index programs) constantly crawl the internet in their never ending quest to gather information and index it in the massive Google database.

google_hack1

The end result is that if you type stuff into Google’s search bar like ” My Little Pownie ” it will cross reference your search with its massive database and bring back some results you can click on. Although searches like these make up 99% of what Google needs to do all day long .. its only the tip of the iceberg of what Google can REALLY do.

If you play your cards right and ask Google the right questions you can find out a whole lot more. And sometimes you will even find stuff that was not meant to be found. You would be amazed at what people throw online (and forget about). Google quietly indexes it all and you have just one thing to do … ask the right questions. 

This weeks articles have nothing to do with “Hacking Google” (good luck with that if you want to try) It’s more about realising the power of the biggest search engine in the world … and the blatant disregard for security that people can have when they put stuff online that was never supposed to be found. Stand by as we teach you some interesting Google Search ‘operators’ as they are called. 

We are going to kick you off with a nice examples of how you can use a modified Google search string to find some interesting stuff. Later on in the week we will explain the different google “operators” and how you can combine them to find cool stuff. 

Here is a very simple one to get you started : Copy and past the search query below into the google search box … and browse random peoples lives by peeking at their iPhone backups. This is not a hack. This is an indexation of information put online BY USERS, indexed by Google .. and found by you.

intitle:”index of” inurl:”iphone”

 

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“Tiltshift” for IOS helps you become the bigger man.

The one thing that is a bit of a bummer when it comes down to being a city stomping giant like Godzilla is that its very hard to find gloves in your size. One of the upsides is that people look very small and insignificant. How about an application that helps you to achieve both things ? Enter “Tiltshift” for IOS. A cool little application that lets you make these great shots where cars look like toys and people look like tiny tin soldiers wobbling around your on private city mockup. Its simple to use, has some pretty effects and the results are pretty good.

For a free app this surely beats posting yet another picture to Facebook with some signature “This was done in Instagram” effects. Get it now and feel what its like to be Godzilla ! 

Download : Tiltshift.

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The history of Siri and the ultimate guide to start talking to her.

With the holidays coming up, some of you might have had their first or second IOS device snuggled in under the tree. Aside from making the Apple shareholders hilariously happy with the overpriced profit margin, you might ALSO enjoy your new purchase of an iPad or an iPhone. If you have a device thats any newer then the last iPhone4S (This includes the iPad mini and the ‘not the latest-but-the-one-before-that-one ipad and the new ipad) it will come with Siri. This ‘personal assistant’ that you can talk to and ask things. In the beginning Siri is a gimmick. Something you use (like Google Now) to try out a couple of times, but chances are, unless you really make an effort, you will probably not use Siri to its full potential. This has to do with the way human behaviour has a hard time keeping up with changing technology. So to get you beyond the ‘Gimmick’ factor we have found a great tutorial on how to make SIRI work for you.

In “The ultimate Siri Guide” Rene Richie explains you in a couple of pointers how to use Siri in your daily life. Remembering the different commands is one thing, reminding yourself to start USING them is another thing. Its going to take a little brain and behaviour hacking to start ‘talking’ to your phone instead of typing on it. Although the former is more natural then the latter, we still find it hard because we have been texting on a numerical keyboard far longer then we have been talking to machines. Give it a try, but remember Siri uses your data connection to analyse your voice. (Unlike Android, where the processing of your voice commands also works offline)

As you hear Siri talk, you might be surprised that this is the voice of a Belgian woman. According to voice technology expert and inventer Jo Lernaut (who was the chairman of the Belgian company Lernaut & Hauspie ) their voice technology has been licenced by both Apple and Microsoft and the SIRI voicefiles where recorded in Belgium by one of their employees. You can find out more about that little detail HERE and watch the (Flemish) interview with Jo Lernaut here.

Links : the ultimate Siri Guide.  –  Interview with Jo Lernout. – the link between Lernout & Hauspie and Siri.

Meanwhile at the big bang theory .. Raj meets a “different” Siri.

 

So : Do YOU talk to your phone or do you still think its awkward  ? Tell us in the comments section.

 

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Setup your new Ipad or Iphone in Record time.

With the holidays coming around, there is a good chance that you and your loved ones might be catching some Apple-Love under the tree in the form of some i-Devices. The new iPhone 5 might be the biggest overpriced gadget this year, but maybe you are going for one of the new iPads or iPad mini. The bummer with these devices is that you have to configure them. Set up the right Email accounts, Icons on the screen, links to websites or other i-Device related settings all need to be punched in after you unwrap your shiny new toy. What if we showed you a way to do all of that configuration work ahead of time AND from the comfort of your own desktop ?  Let us teach you how.

All you need to download is Apple’s iPhone Configuration tool. This nifty little program lets you pre-configure tons of settings on whatever I-Device you are going to purchase. 

  • The name of your device.
  • Set a passcode to unlock the device
  • Preconfigure the wifi network you want your iPad to connect to (including the wep or wpa2 password)
  • Setup a VPN configuration (should you have such a thing at home)
  • Preconfigure the email accounts on your iDevice.
  • Preconfigure the exchange connection to your Gmail account so you have Mail, Calendar and Contacts in Sync.
  • Connect to your own Calendar and contacts server (You can use Owncloud to set those up should you need to)
  • Preconfigure webclips (Website Shortcuts) on your homescreen.
How do I do it ? 
Just download the iPhone configuration utility (available for Windows and IOS) and open it up. From the filemenu choose “FILE > New configuration profile” and start dabbling away. Once you have configured the settings you want hit the ‘EXPORT” button. This will generate a profile file that, when opened on your iDevice, automatically configure the settings as you set them up in the iPhone configuration tool. You can choose to make a single profile with ALL your different settings ( Mail accounts, Wireless settings etc) or you can make a configuration file for each category. (A separate profile file for wifi , several for email etc etc) 
 
Letting it work for you.
If it comes down to “auto configuring” your own device, it might be a bit of a hassle to use the configuration tool, but it does come in handy when I want to make web-shortcuts to all the web-based devices and servers I have in and around the house. I just shoot out the profile to my iPad (using eMail or Dropbox) and I’m done. 
 
But the power lies in your service to others. Want to prevent the hassle of getting a phonecall from your parents or aunts over in “far-away-istan” the day after they bought their shiny iDevices ? Do you know the horror of talking a total newbie through setting up an email account on an ipad (without the possibility to see the screen) Have you ever explained “swipe here, pinch there” to a touch-interface-lamen ? Save yourself the hassle. Configure grandma’s email account in the iPhone configuration tool and just have her download the profile of your dropbox share. You will be thankful to me once the holiday rush commences.
 
The iPhone Configurator can be found HERE.
 

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Size doesn't matter : The 12-inch mobile office.

Since we are doing some home renovation over at Casa del Knightwise for the moment, living space is at a premium. While our downstairs looks like its been raided by a group of angry drunken Constructicons, both @Niejana and I need to “flee” to my upstairs office to spend our evenings watching tv and doing stuff. The otherwise pristine (and organised) room is now packed with boxes, our tv, a couch, @Niejana’s desktop , 2 doggies and a cat. Needless to say : Space is scarce. That requirement comes at a convenient time, since I’ve just shrunk down my “Digital survival kit” to the size of a 12 inch messenger bag. Bigger is better ? Not always, let me show you.

What do I need : In order to digitally survive this era of grime and dust I need a mobile setup that allows me to do the three crucial things : Communicate , Consume media and compose content. An added “required factor” is that the setup has to be completely mobile and fit inside a bag that can be carried around ANYWHERE leisurely without yelling “This is a laptop bag, mug me now”

Setup

Bag : Finding the right bag is an art. Call me metro-sexual or just someone with a right balance between appreciating both practicality and esthetics : Finding the right bag is crucial. The trick is to find the sweet spot between ” Too small” Where you cannot get all the gear you want into the bag OR damadge your gear by cramming it in. Samsonite’s 12 inch horizontally slung messenger bag is ideal for this operation. It has all the compartments you need and comes with extra padding and a safety latch to keep whatever you need tucked in safely. With the “Horizontal” orientation the weight is distributed equally so the strap doesn’t wear into your shoulder. The extra “Handles” make it easy to grab and sling anywhere you need to while the whole formfactor is just big enough to encompass anything, but small enough to be casual and unobtrusive. 

Laptop : My newly purchased 11.6 inch Macbook Air is a dream here. Dual booting into both Linux and OSX the device offers me the 2 platforms that I need in my daily routines. OSX for content production, Ubuntu for advance geek stuff. The 128 gig SSD might be small but with the addition of cloud storage AND using storage on my home server over SSH connections, disk space is not THAT important. The Air is delightfully light, well built and has a great screen. It lacks the “Hussle” of consiously ” getting out your laptop”. With the size of an A4 piece of paper (or an iPad) it just pops on the table, gets the job done and slides back in the bag when i’m done. 

Phone :  The pinnacle of communications here is my smartphone. The 16Gig iPhone 4 might not be the top of the line model, but it does preform the tasks it needs to do. With the Hootsuite and the Google+ app most of my social media channels are covered. I’m tied in to my multiple email and calendar accounts via the mail app. Aside from the music, Downcast takes care of my podcast subscriptions and the Webbased interface of Google Reader together with the Buffer and the WordPress app let me do most daily chores for the website. Crucial here is the presence of headphones (so I can “Zone Out” anywhere) and the “Hotspot” functionality turns it into a crucial component to “connect” the entire setup while on the road.

Tablet : The Google Nexus 7 proves to be invaluable when it comes to this “Compact but Crispy” setup. It’s 7 inch size and relatively long battery size help me get through the day with ease. Reading books, Doing my “communications” on a bigger screen and watching the downloaded Video Podcasts are just cut out for the Nexus. An extra “slide right in” protection sleeve and the vertical orientation of the tablet in the bag, make it great to “grab and check” your device in a tricorder style. The only downside is the smaller ‘diskspace’ (8 gig) and the absence of 3G. But the latter is easily overcome by using my iPhone as a hotspot.

Cables and chargers : The trick here is to have the smallest amount of cables with you, while still covering all the bases.

  • Macbook air Charger (with just the plug connector, not the long cable)
  • Apple iPhone/iPad cable : Used to charge the iPhone using the Macbooks usb port.
  • Usb Microsim cable : Used to charge the Nexus (from the Macbooks usb port.)
  • Usb charger : Small usb charging plug to wallcharge the iPhone / Nexus 
  • 16 gig Usb stick : Small and compact but packing 5 extra “Live” linux Cd’s to have any OS I want at my portable disposal.
  • iPhone Tripod : A little tripod to make sure I can use my iPhone as a one man camera crew in a pinch.
  • In the car : The trick of such a compact setup is to make sure you have some “extra’s” nearby. So in the car I have a small bag with a longer powercord, a Usb to Ethernet adapter, a network cable and an iPhone / iPad charger just in case.
 
So where is the iPad : To be honest, my 64 gig iPad ALSO fits into this bag (it adds another layer of protection to the Macbook) but altough its filled with Tv shows and content I like to watch, my iPad is becoming more and more “domesticated” Getting its fair amount of use around the house but, due to weight and size , doesn’t accompany me on the road every day. When I touchdown at home though it makes a perfect “second screen” to this setup that I often use to play movies or keep track of social feeds and stuff.
 
In the end : This setup is no powerhouse, but that’s not what it is supposed to be. For that I have my desktop at home with its big screens. The mobility here trumps the muscle-power the gear has to offer. I can easily dock the Macbook to a second screen and slide in a keyboard and a mouse and transform it into a more “domestic” setup if I want to. And it is THAT combination : Light and flexible to use on the road, but easily transformable into a “home setup” that I absolutely love about my new tiny setup.
 

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The truth about the iPhone 5 in 3 minutes flat.

Thank you to listener and fan of the show @jaymartinez for this one. A three minute parody with one single line of truth : “At least 2 millimeters taller, thats gotta be worth at least 400 Dollah’

 

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